Skip

How UCLA flooded on a sunny day
August 4, 2014 5:17 PM   Subscribe

Last Tuesday afternoon, a 30-inch water main burst beneath Sunset Boulevard on the northern edge of the UCLA campus, creating a geyser dozens of feet high. It took more than three hours to shut off the flow of water; by then, eight to ten million gallons of water had been released. The water flooded the UCLA campus, damaging the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion and trapping hundreds of cars in underground parking structures.

The failing pipe was reported to be more than 90 years old, calling attention to LA's aging water system.

Sunset Boulevard reopened today. LADWP documented the repair process with a series of photos on Twitter.
posted by heisenberg (51 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good year for it. Definitely no better use that water could have been put to.
posted by Caduceus at 5:21 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]


Yeah, this is not the best year to lose 8 - 10 million gallons of water in southern California.
posted by Nerd of the North at 5:25 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


What could go wrong?
Officials have long known that hundreds of miles of city water lines have deteriorated and need replacement, with many past the century mark. But in recent years, L.A.'s elected leaders have been unwilling to hike water rates enough to fix them more rapidly. As it stands, the city-owned Department of Water and Power is on track to replace main water lines only once every 300 years.
posted by octothorpe at 5:26 PM on August 4 [4 favorites]


It's not just LA's aging water system, it's our entire country's aging infrastructure that we refuse to maintain and replace.
posted by zachlipton at 5:26 PM on August 4 [49 favorites]


Thanks, Obama.
posted by nevercalm at 5:28 PM on August 4


RIP my friend Bryan's car.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:30 PM on August 4 [7 favorites]


It's pretty awful on many fronts (including the drought, the traffic caused by the need to repair, the pavilion).

On the bright side, we kept the ABC7 live broadcast going in the background here at the office and caught this bit of silliness on the air.
posted by estherbester at 5:30 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


It's a good thing the gas pipes are in good shape thanks to the Public Utilities Comission.
posted by benzenedream at 5:31 PM on August 4


Indeed, zachlipton. The American Society of Civil Engineers issues a report card for each state's infrastructure and national grades as well. Nationally, it's Cs and Ds across the board. With one B for solid waste. State by state it can be even worse. Here's the California section.
posted by that's candlepin at 5:31 PM on August 4 [8 favorites]


What could go wrong?

Damn those tea party activists running amok in LA's government...
posted by gyc at 5:32 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


*checks Stanford football schedule*

Oh, man, please tell me the LSJUMB is traveling to Pasadena this year...
posted by Etrigan at 5:35 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


I left campus at 2:15. So so grateful. I have to be at Bruin Plaza tomorrow from 10 a.m.to 2 p.m.. wish me luck.
posted by Sophie1 at 5:40 PM on August 4


State by state it can be even worse.

Why doesn't it explain what a high hazard dam is? I need to panic as accurately as possible.
posted by elizardbits at 5:43 PM on August 4 [5 favorites]


Chicago has quite a bit of water mains that are over 100 years old, some made of wood. Mains were being replaced at a rate of every 150 years or so, but water bill hikes are supposed to allow for a faster replacement rate over the next decade. So at least we have that going for us.
posted by borkencode at 5:46 PM on August 4


I just wrapped up a prolonged course of medical treatment at UCLA a few weeks ago, so the timing on this mega-flood is really bizarre for me. All those photos and videos of flooded parking lots and staircases streaming like fountains... Those places had become so horribly familiar, but now they were suddenly underwater. It's all really surreal, in a way that's hard to explain. It feels heavily symbolic somehow, but I know it doesn't really "mean" anything and even if I wanted to project meaning on it, I don't know what that meaning would be.

I have to go back tomorrow, and presumably the whole place is all dried out now.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:57 PM on August 4 [5 favorites]


The American Society of Civil Engineers issues a report card for each state's infrastructure and national grades as well.

And there's something to be said for it, but of course civil engineers are going to advocate for new infrastructure.
posted by wotsac at 5:58 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


And there's something to be said for it, but of course civil engineers are going to advocate for new infrastructure.

"My doctor said I should get dialysis treatment because of my diabetes, but I'm too smart for him!"
posted by clockzero at 6:05 PM on August 4 [30 favorites]


At least it didn't flood the subway.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:06 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


It missed the main research libraries, though, right? (I mean, I don't know if there are any more books or microfiche in the basements or not, but...)
posted by allthinky at 6:06 PM on August 4


Why doesn't it explain what a high hazard dam is? I need to panic as accurately as possible.

There are dams all around my apartment building, but I'm on the highest hill for miles around. It would be Mount Ararat up in here if they burst.
posted by winna at 6:08 PM on August 4


It feels heavily symbolic somehow, but I know it doesn't really "mean" anything and even if I wanted to project meaning on it, I don't know what that meaning would be.

Perhaps you are to become Empress of the MerPeople.
posted by elizardbits at 6:13 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


So I guess flooded cars are safe to drive, then? (No, I don't know the answer to that.)
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:15 PM on August 4


All those photos and videos of flooded parking lots and staircases streaming like fountains... Those places had become so horribly familiar, but now they were suddenly underwater.

Yeah, I haven't felt like that since 2005.

So I guess flooded cars are safe to drive, then? (No, I don't know the answer to that.)

No, they need all fluids drained and replaced or the engine and transmission will quickly be destroyed if they can be started. Probably new batteries. And a lot of them will have electrical problems forever due to water getting into the connectors and accelerating corrosion. Also the seat cushions need to be replaced, and the carpeting and backing removed and replaced or they will stink to high $DEITY within a couple of months. And all the radio speakers need to be replaced.

Had a company car go through a similar (rain-driven) event in 2003. WIth freshwater, only underwater for a couple of hours. Cost the insurance company over USD$5000 to fix it.
posted by localroger at 6:20 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


P.S. The company car had water up to just under the dashboard console. The dealership told us that if it had gotten to the dashboard the then 2-year old car would have been totaled.
posted by localroger at 6:25 PM on August 4


I'd want to call it totaled, but I guess that is the insurance companies' call.

I wonder what the damage will cost UCLA? Easily in the tens of millions, I'd fear, or even more.
posted by thelonius at 6:25 PM on August 4


I'd want to call it totaled

I wasn't terribly thrilled but it was a nearly new Toyota still worth over $15K. In fairness they seem to have completely fixed it and it gave me no problems until it developed an engine sludge problem shared by lots of Camrys that had never been under water. In '08 it got in an argument with a Jeep and lost (other driver on cell phone) and the insurance company did give us a choice. Now I'm driving a Hyundai Elantra.
posted by localroger at 6:28 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


It missed the main research libraries, though, right?

The research libraries are all pretty far away from the main flood site, although the water did come close.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:29 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]


I would guess the city's insurance will be on the hook for all the claims, including UCLA's and their students and faculty who now own future crusher cubes.
posted by localroger at 6:37 PM on August 4


There's more money to be made in keeping taxes low for re-election, and in kickbacks and bribes when ultimately things need to be completely replaced by private contractors; than in performing continuous, sensible maintenance by public utilities.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:53 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Damn those tea party activists running amok in LA's government...

Our current, "liberal", mayor get elected on a platform that included sticking it to those fat cat rate hikers down at the the DWP. So, don't need the Tea Party to have your government give in to the people who don't want to pay for their infrastructure upgrades.

There's more money to be made in keeping taxes low for re-election, and in kickbacks and bribes when ultimately things need to be completely replaced by private contractors; than in performing continuous, sensible maintenance by public utilities.

I don't think the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is going to replaced by anything private anytime soon.
posted by sideshow at 6:57 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Why doesn't it explain what a high hazard dam is?

It's a bit hard to find*, but the definition is: "A dam in which failure or mis-operation is expected to result in loss of life and may also cause significant economic losses, including damages to downstream property or critical infrastructure, environmental damage, or disruption of lifeline facilities."


* if you go into the Navigation Menu->Dams and then click on the term "high hazard dams" in the text, you get a popup. I checked the source code and it looks like they meant to have this popup available in the state pages, but fucked it up.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 6:57 PM on August 4


Why doesn't it explain what a high hazard dam is? I need to panic as accurately as possible.

Well, it has a high probability of becoming a "fuck" at any moment, for one.
posted by emptythought at 7:00 PM on August 4


I don't think the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is going to replaced by anything private anytime soon.

Mr Lee's Greater Hong Kong certainly would not have let this happen.
posted by elizardbits at 7:05 PM on August 4 [7 favorites]


Perhaps you are to become Empress of the MerPeople.

That is a possibility that had not occurred to me. I guess I'd better learn to swim, just in case.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:14 PM on August 4


LA Times says 20 million gallons, as of yesterday.
posted by sageleaf at 7:33 PM on August 4


LA Times says 20 million gallons, as of yesterday.

Pffft. That's only 61.3 acre feet.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:47 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]


When progressives talked about a larger stimulus package during the heart of the Great Recession, including infrastructure spending to capitalize on once in a generation negative real interest rates on US bonds and mobilize the millions of constructions workers out of work across the nation, this is what they were talking about.

Too bad there were no shovel-ready projects. And somethingsomethingsomething deficit Benghazi, so there's that.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:08 PM on August 4 [7 favorites]


sideshow: "I don't think the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is going to replaced by anything private anytime soon."

Counterpoint: DC Water has been independent of my city's government since 1996, and operates as a quasi-public entity (with an internal structure that looks a lot more like a private corporation than a government agency). Its finances are completely independent of the city.

In that time, the agency has become one of the most efficient and effective public utilities in the country (in a city that isn't particularly known for fostering effective governance, no less). We supposedly get more bang for our buck when we pay our water bills than any other city. There's still a huge infrastructure backlog, but we've actually got a plan to work through it.

Privatization is the wrong idea, but there are some huge benefits from insulating infrastructure planning from the whims of politicians and local governments.
posted by schmod at 9:25 PM on August 4 [5 favorites]


Also, I'm genuinely surprised that LA has any 90-year old underground infrastructure that's still intact. I don't think we knew how to make these things earthquake-proof back then...
posted by schmod at 9:26 PM on August 4


The amount of water lost is apparently equivalent to a third of what San Francisco uses in a day.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:35 PM on August 4


Say what you like about Noah Cross, but this never happened on his watch.
posted by Prince Lazy I at 12:50 AM on August 5


When I first saw reports saying "UCLA's campus flooded," I scoffed and said "The campus is huge, how bad could it actually be?" Then I looked at the pictures and went O_O. That flooded parking structure was my assigned parking when I was a student!

It missed the main research libraries, though, right?

Hopefully someone currently at UCLA can confirm, but all the reports I've seen have placed the major flood damage in the athletic-related areas seen in the upper center of this map. All the libraries are well removed from that area (North campus in particular is at a higher elevation than the athletic areas, and the big library storage facility is at the far west of campus).
posted by brookedel at 3:00 AM on August 5


Privatization is the wrong idea, but there are some huge benefits from insulating infrastructure planning from the whims of politicians and local governments.

In my experience this applies to any monopoly, including and not limited to power provision (gas, electric), public transport (rail, buses), healthcare, air traffic control, prisons, waste disposal, law enforcement and education.
posted by asok at 3:29 AM on August 5


I forget how old LA is. Somehow as any east coast person, my brain thinks of the west coast as all new and shiny compared to the cities here. This country is falling apart.
posted by octothorpe at 4:04 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


that's candlepin: Nationally, it's Cs and Ds across the board. With one B for solid waste.

Woohoo! We passed!
posted by Rock Steady at 5:57 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


I feel like this is just going to keep happening but I'm not sure how bad things need to get before anything is done about it.
posted by octothorpe at 6:28 AM on August 5


With one B for solid waste.

Woohoo! We passed!

*SOUND OF KLAXON*
SECRET POOP JOKE IDENTIFIED. REPEAT, SECRET POOP JOKE IDENTIFIED.

posted by wenestvedt at 9:05 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the ASCE makes ridiculously economically unsupportable suggestions and is basically the lobbying arm of the construction industry.

It's great to say that we need to maintain our built infrastructure, but, really, we need development patterns that make it economically viable to support that infrastructure. Right now with centralized big budget funding and planning we've perverted the infrastructure landscape such that it's way "cheaper" to run new lines out into greenfields and postpone maintenance on existing infrastructure rather than build sustainable environments. Organizations like the ASCE are a huge part of that.

We need to start reworking taxes and fees so that the costs reflect the demands. This is going to be ugly and politically untenable, so what's more likely is that we'll continue to build around the fringes and abandon the centers, ala Detroit, with huge income tax based subsidies so that we never really tie the impacts of our choices about where we live and work back to the real costs of those choices.
posted by straw at 9:21 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


All the libraries, including SRLF, are fine to my knowledge (where my knowledge includes people who currently work at UCLA libraries and all the attendant networking that comes from being a UCLA library school alum).

Honestly, on the 'places that were best to hit if any place must be picked,' Pauley Pavilion and some parking structures are way better than the hospital, the libraries, or student housing. I heard some initial reports that the student health center was hit and it looks like they were but only on the first floor (which was always sort of low use anyway).

It could have been way worse but that doesn't excuse the city from kicking DWP into high gear on pipe inspections and replacements that are long overdue.
posted by librarylis at 11:04 AM on August 5


You're not wrong, Straw. On the flip side, most of the actual report is compiled by local engineers who care a great deal about doing right by their state and community. It's a shit situation in a lot of places (very literally in some cases).
posted by that's candlepin at 10:51 AM on August 6


Also useful to differentiate between transportation infrastructure and the other categories (water being the relevant one in this case).
posted by that's candlepin at 10:54 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


« Older Four weeks later, you move to Florida.   |   True Plagiarism Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post